A life sentence of chronic widespread pain, associated sleeplessness, and depression with no known cure. This is the reality of individuals who suffer from Fibromyalgia. Tender points of pain throughout the body that tend to flare up in response to life’s stresses leaves these individuals hopeless and fatigued.
Biomedicine is beginning to identify potential causes for the development of Fibromyalgia; namely, continued states of stress response spurred on by one-time traumas or continued stress conditioning in everyday challenges. Further, Fibromyalgia appears to be episodic in response to both internal (infectious illness) and external (life events) stress.
Exploring management techniques to help these individuals live a comfortable and pain-free life necessitates a methodology that gently coaxes the body out of stress response back into states of relaxation where cellular healing can occur.
So, does infrared sauna therapy help with fibromyalgia?
The unique and dynamic interplay between the infrared light spectrum and human physiology gently draws individuals out of stress response back into states of abundant relaxation. In addition, the penetrative rays of infrared light radiate into the body’s network to improve energy conversion into better circulation even as the body is detoxified to relieve the internal ecosystem of stress.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (pronounced: fy-bro-my-AL-ja) is a complex, chronic pain condition with no known cure. Widespread pain is experienced throughout the musculoskeletal structure of patients suffering from Fibromyalgia who learn to manage their symptoms through a variety of treatments. Areas of tenderness in the body known as ‘trigger points’, are also accompanied by sleep issues, lowered mood, and general fatigue.
This painful long-term condition is often considered as a subjective disease because the symptoms are not measurable by biomedicine. The specific cause of Fibromyalgia is still unknown.
More than 5 million Americans suffer from Fibromyalgia and eighty to ninety percent of them are women. The condition appears to be episodic and responds to heightened levels of stress with intensified pain, lack of sleep, and depleted mood. Symptoms may present as a result of the brain nerves misinterpreting or ‘overreacting’ to pain signals, possibly a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain.
While the cause of Fibromyalgia is still unknown, biomedical research shows that there are contributing factors in the development of the chronic condition; trauma, extended periods of stress response in the body, infectious illness, and genetics (1).
As patients seek to find relief from their pain and discomfort, treatments that address extended periods of stress response in the body tend to be effective as management tools. Therapies that gently coax the body back into homeostasis are helpful not only in pain relief, but also creating an ecosystem in the body where restful sleep becomes possible.
As the body is able to transfer out of stress response into states of relaxation, incidents of pain in the musculoskeletal system are reduced as well as incidents of disturbed sleep in the Fibromyalgia patient (1).
Infrared sauna therapy is a gentle, non-invasive method that invites the body back into states of balance and out of stress response while encouraging increased circulation without the high impact of most exercise regimes.
How Does An Infrared Sauna Impact Human Physiology?
Infrared saunas capitalize on the potent effect of the infrared light spectrum on the human body to generate a plethora of health benefits. In the early 1960s, NASA began to explore the effects of light exposure on astronauts returning to Earth from space who had suffered muscular and skeletal atrophy (2).
As biomedical researchers explored the full range of the light spectrum they discovered that the invisible spectrum of infrared light rays had an astounding impact on the cellular structures of the human body. Exposure to the infrared light spectrum was found to stimulate cellular regeneration and heighten mitochondrial activity, therefore, improving blood circulation.
The good news of the dynamic interplay between infrared wavelengths on human physiology spread and the first infrared sauna became available to the public in 1979.
The infrared sauna is usually a wooden cabin-like structure that encloses the rays of near, mid, and far infrared light to create a light bath. As individuals step into the infrared sauna their body is saturated on all sides by the warm hues of invisible light.
The infrared spectrum of light is invisible but is experienced kinetically as heat. Infrared light is able to penetrate beyond the initial epidermis to deeply penetrate the soft tissue of the body. The human body is composed of over 50 trillion cells, each a home to the mitochondria. The mitochondria are sensitive to all light, but particularly to the infrared light spectrum. The energy plant of each individual cell responds by converting the infrared light through ATP into nitric acid that serves to hyperoxygenate the hemoglobin in the body. Heart rate is elevated as the freshly oxygenated blood cells begin to flow through the body like fluid rivers into areas of inflammation. Improved circulation reduces inflammation, and therefore pain (3).
Understanding the mechanism of the interaction between the infrared light spectrum and the physiological network of the body reveals the exceptional possibility of relief for the Fibromyalgia patient. Understanding the interconnectedness of the self reveals that holistic treatments produce better results. As individuals experience less pain, they are able to find deeper and longer states of sleep and when this occurs mood is also elevated.
Infrared Sauna Therapy And Stress Response: A Bridge To Homeostasis
While the exact cause of Fibromyalgia is still unknown, it is believed that both trauma and prolonged stress response are strong contributing factors. Medical professionals also understand that Fibromyalgia is episodic in response to increased stress. Meaning, the symptoms of this chronic pain condition are increased as the individual experiences deeper levels of stress both internal and external.
At the crux of this condition are prolonged states of stress response both as a potential original cause and as a stimulant to painful episodes. Either as a preventative measure or a management technique, it is necessary for patients suffering from Fibromyalgia to have reliable means of keeping the body in homeostasis.
What is a stress response? The autonomic nervous system is divided into two categories: Sympathetic Dominance (Survival, Fight or Flight) and Parasympathetic Dominance (Rest, Relaxation). Under healthy conditions, individuals are able to seamlessly flow from both states of being as an appropriate response to external triggers.
Biomedicine now understands that the leading cause of chronic disease is prolonged states of stress response (staying in sympathetic dominance for too long.) Survival instinct kicks in to protect us from severe, life-threatening situations. This releases a chain of biochemical responses within the body. Included in survival response is the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. When the threat is over the body should be able to easily transfer back to states of relaxation and rest. If this does not occur the adrenal glands will become exhausted from the continual release of cortisol into the system and ultimately the body will become toxic from the constant release of this hormone.
We know that trauma is among the contributing factors in the chronic condition of Fibromyalgia. Trauma stokes stress response in the body. If trauma is unprocessed, the individual will stay in stress response as they experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep will result from continual stimulation from stress response. In the case of Fibromyalgia, pain throughout the body is also experienced as a result of an overtaxed nervous system (4).
How can an individual find their way out of stress response? There are several tools that are available that will assist the transference back to parasympathetic dominance. Patients suffering from widespread pain, and fatigue will be limited in available energy for activities that make the transference easy, which is why infrared sauna therapy is an excellent choice.
The warm hues of radiant heat found in an infrared light bath gently coax the body into states of relaxation. Heat, in moderate, controlled quantities relaxes the body.: Nerve endings are stimulated to block pain receptors. After spending 15 minutes in an infrared sauna the body will melt into states of profound relaxation. These states of relaxation both alleviate the symptoms of pain experienced in the body by Fibromyalgia patients and also encourage the body to remain in parasympathetic dominance.
While it may not be possible to cure Fibromyalgia, it is certainly possible to alleviate the symptoms of pain in the body by drawing the individual into states of relaxation through consistent exposure to infrared light.
Pain Reduction In Fibromyalgia Patients: Infrared Sauna Therapy Improves Circulation
Inflammation in the musculoskeletal structure of the body creates pain. Reducing inflammation in the body of the individual’s suffering from Fibromyalgia through increasing circulation reduces pain. When the symptoms of chronic pain are reduced, these individuals will find that they are able to sleep through the night and wake up feeling rested.
The unique and dynamic relationship between infrared light and the cellular structure of the body stimulates the conversion of light energy into oxygen for the body. As the bloodstream of the body is hyperoxygenated and heart rate is elevated, circulation is improved. Imagine the physiological network of the body as a topographical map of waterways. When the rivers of the body are blocked, inflammation occurs. Infrared light stimulates the fluid flow of blood into painful parts of the body to reduce inflammation and therefore reduce experienced pain.
Nerve endings are stimulated to block pain response through exposure to infrared heat therapy. As pain is reduced in the body through regular infrared sauna therapy, the individual suffering from Fibromyalgia will easily drift into sleep at nighttime to wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated (5).
Improved Mood Through Regular Infrared Sauna Therapy
- Normalize serotonin production
- Increase Dopamine Excretion
Depression and anxiety are symptomatic of Fibromyalgia. While antidepressant medication is often prescribed to patients with this chronic condition, other alternative treatments for depression are available that will assist in maintaining homeostasis in the body. Infrared sauna therapy is an excellent treatment for depression and anxiety.
Infrared sauna therapy is effective as a mood stabilizer treatment because the interaction between this light spectrum and the biochemistry of the brain normalizes serotonin and melatonin production. Normalized serotonin production through infrared sauna therapy will reduce rates of depression in individuals suffering from Fibromyalgia (6).
Dopamine (the same brain chemical that gives you a ‘runner’s high’ after exercise) is released during infrared sauna sessions at three times the rate of moderate exercise.
Engaging in infrared saunas therapy regularly (at least 3 times per week) normalizes serotonin production coupled with higher rates of dopamine excretion to increase and stabilize the mood of Fibromyalgia patients.
Pain Relief From Fibromyalgia: Detoxification Of The Body Reduces Internal Stress Response
Fibromyalgia strikes its victim in adulthood (although there are very few cases in children) after a lifetime of accumulated internal and external stress. Toxic build up within the body’s network creates an internal atmosphere of stress. As the internal organs work hard to relieve toxic build up they become overtaxed.
Infrared light heats the body up from the inside out. This mechanism of raising the internal core temperature of the body creates copious sweating. The skin is the largest organ in the body and by using it to detoxify the body through sweat; the burden of detoxification is relieved from the liver and kidneys. By powerfully detoxifying the body internal stress is reduced.
All stress reduction has proven to be an effective tool in the management of Fibromyalgia for its patients. Infrared sauna heat detoxifies the body, induces states of relaxation, normalizes serotonin to regulate mood and improves circulation to reduce pain (7).
If you do decide to manage Fibromyalgia with infrared sauna therapy be mindful to replenish with plenty of healthful water, before, during, and after infrared sauna sessions.
Freedom From Pain, Stabilized Mood, Improved Sleep: Infrared Sauna A Management Solution For Individuals Suffering From Fibromyalgia
The diagnosis of Fibromyalgia for most is an untenable life experience. Chronic widespread pain and depleted mood create a bleak lens by which they experience the world. While there may not be a known cure for this debilitating condition there is hope for safely managing the symptoms.
Infrared sauna therapy is a dynamic and holistic approach for individuals suffering from Fibromyalgia that addresses the root perpetrator of stress response in the body. Infrared light wavelengths interface with the physiological network to invite the body from stress response back to states of relaxation, improves circulation to reduce pain, restores serotonin balance in the brain to stabilize mood, and creates an internal climate in the body to promote deep and restful sleep.
As patients suffering from Fibromyalgia are serenaded in the rich rays of infrared light they slip into states of relaxation and are able to observe the incremental remission of grueling symptoms. If you or someone you love is suffering at the unmerciful hand of Fibromyalgia then consider regular infrared sauna therapy as a solution for symptom management.
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